One of Australia’s iconic rock bands, Cold Chisel broke up in the early 1980’s before I had a chance see them in concert. And before I was old enough to see them in their natural habitat, the local Aussie pub. This year, despite the unexpected passing of their drummer Steve Prestwich in January, they announced a comeback tour called Light the Nitro. (Says it all, doesn’t it?) Ticket queue, here I come!
On Friday night I sat at Rod Laver Arena with 12,000 excited Chisel fans as the working class rockers erupted onto the stage with Standing on the Outside, Shipping Steel and Choir Girl. They were as energised as ever, as if they’d never gone.
Barnesy, wearing his trademark white shirt and Japanese headband, slightly hunched over, holding the mic with his elbow at shoulder height, belted out the lyrics with his usual intense feeling.
New drummer Charley Drayton was flawless and fitted in Prestwich’s shoes perfectly.
Mossy’s vocals in Phil Small’s sweet classic, My Baby and his own Bow River demonstrated the great voice he has retained over the years. I always knew the man could play guitar well but until I’d seen him play live, I never appreciated his skill. He’s up there with the world’s best. During Goodbye Astrid it looked to me like Mossy and the brilliant harmonica player David Blight, were locked in a musical stoush which ended with Blight conceding defeat by throwing his arms up and walking away, laughing. A great moment.
Ironically, Don Walker’s masterpiece and classic Chisel anthem, Khe Sanh, was the only song for which lyrics were presented on the video screen behind the stage. Anyone at a Chisel concert not knowing the words to Khe Sanh should be thrown out by security! The instant Don played those unforgettable opening notes on the piano, 12,000 Chisel fans jump to their feet and sang it like they would at any pub or Aussie backyard party. The atmosphere was absolutely electric.
But arguably the emotional highlight of the night was the tribute to Steve Prestwich. It was probably quite fitting to do an acoustic version of Steve’s When the War is Over, sans drums and with Barnsey doing the vocals normally performed by Ian Moss. Jimmy said of this song, “It’s just beautiful, one of the best songs I’ve ever been involved in. It’s hard to sing that song now without welling up.” Yes, Barnsey, and when you guys performed it the other night, it’s also hard to listen to without welling up. Fantastic stuff.
All in all it was classic Chisel. They played rough, they played raw and they played hard. We expected nothing less and they gave it their all. After a mesmerising encore featuring Saturday Night, Four Walls and Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye), I’d like to steal a line from the late great Steve Prestwich.
How can I see this band and not be blown away?